‘It’s a reminder that the indigenous community is here’: Rochester recognizes and celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — As the sun rose Monday morning, the sound of the Native American flute filled the crisp air.

Dozens of people came together at Cobbs Hill Reservoir to celebrate a culture that is often misunderstood.

“Indigenous people are tremendously overlooked in the society,” said Rochester Indigenous Peoples Day co-chair Trish Corcoran. “We’re written out of history books, and when we are in history books it’s usually incorrect. Even on surveys, this percentage of people and that percentage of people, we’re usually not included and if we are, we’re ‘other’ and it’s not so fun to be ‘other,’” she said.

Corcoran said the day is not only about celebration, but also about remembrance for those who died before Indigenous Peoples’ Day was established in Rochester in 2022 — a process she said took six years.
She said the “edge of the woods” ceremony, as they call it, can be a greeting or a condolence ceremony. Many people sprinkled sage into a firepit for loved ones they may have lost over the years.

“The difference is that Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates all people,” Corcoran said. “I mean because everyone is indigenous to somewhere. We kind of focus on the Haudenosaunee in this area because that’s where we’re from.”

Although much progress has been made over the years to recognize Indigenous people and the culture, many people said there’s still lost information and there’s still a lot to learn. Recognizing the day helps bring visibility to indigenous people.

“We look only at indigenous people through the lens of history,” said Jonathan Ntheketha. “We miss out on the fact that we are currently living amongst a thriving community and culture that wants to stay connected and it wants to connect to as many people as possible; so why not be a part of that.”

Reminding the community of one thing:

“It’s a reminder that the indigenous community is here,” Ntheketha said.

The group also planted a white pine tree of peace.

There was music, education vendors, a lacrosse demonstration and a river dance performance, followed by a sunset ceremony Genesee Valley Park.

Flute player at Indigenous Peoples Day celebration at Cobbs Hill Reservoir (photo credit: Johnny Nixon / WHEC)